By Carson Gerber
For the Pharos-Tribune
State Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, has introduced legislation requiring law enforcement officers to attend training on how to interact with people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Friend said he crafted the bill in response to a Peru police officer, who last year Tasered a 64-year-old nursing home resident with advance-stage Alzheimer’s.
House Bill 1044 would require six hours of training on Alzheimer’s disease and related senile dementia. Officers currently undergo training on autism, mental illness, addictive disorders, mental retardation and developmental disabilities.
Friend said he decided to write the bill after he was contacted by the family of James Howard. He was Tasered five times at Miller’s Merry Manor Nursing Home in June by Peru officer Gregory Martin.
Martin said in a police report that Howard was combative and wouldn’t obey his commands to get onto a stretcher to go to a hospital.
The Peru Board of Works fired Martin in August after officials determined he used excessive force in the incident. Martin currently is appealing the board’s decision in court and requesting back pay, wages and benefits accrued since he was fired.
Friend said he was dismayed when he learned of the Taser incident from Howard’s family. The legislator said Howard’s family asked him to create specific legislation for officers dealing with Alzheimer’s patients. He noted he has relatives who are currently residents at Miller’s Merry Manor in Peru.
“You think, oh my gosh, that could happen to one of my family members,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Howard’s wife, Virginia, said Tuesday she was thrilled to learn Friend had introduced the new law.
“I think it’s fantastic,” she said. “If they can get that passed, it’d be wonderful ... This is what I wanted done. I want the law changed.”
Friend said Alzheimer’s disease is becoming more widespread in the state, and the legislation will ensure law enforcement officers take appropriate action when interacting with people who have the disease.
“As it becomes more prevalent, instances of officers encountering people with Alzheimer’s will likely go up,” he said. “With more training, hopefully we’ll avoid a situation like this from ever happening again.”
The bill was co-authored by state Rep. Mike Karickhoff, R-Kokomo. The bill had its first reading Tuesday in the House, and was referred to the Committee on Veterans Affairs and Public Safety.